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November 12, 2008 > Theater Review: Alice in Wonderland provides a fun romp for all

Theater Review: Alice in Wonderland provides a fun romp for all

By Jay Coleman

Imagine that you've entered a magical world of fantasy creatures, nonsensical discussion and convoluted logic. No, it's not the current financial crisis but the perplexing world that author Lewis Carroll created nearly 150 years ago in his classic tale Alice in Wonderland.

The story still plays well on two levels - a cartoonish romp for kids and a verbal fencing match for adults - particularly in the latest rendition which opens Friday, November 14, at Irvington High School.

This is an ambitious production and one that involves some innovative collaboration: the Irvington Conservatory Theatre has teamed up with the drama team from Washington High School (WHS) to co-produce the show including six performances at Irvington's Valhalla Theatre and the final four shows at WHS.

The production, sponsored by Ohlone College, is being co-directed by two recent graduates from the Fremont high schools - Evan Boomer from Irvington and Michelle Foletta from Washington. They are assisted by the artistic staff of Linda Jackson-Whitmore and Maia Steward (IHS drama instructors), Matt Ballin (WHS drama instructor), Fred Alim (Ohlone scenic designer) and Misty Ty (Ohlone stage craft instructor).

As the story begins, Alice encounters the White Rabbit - the original Energizer Bunny - who's frantically scurrying about, late for an appointment. Tara Williams embraces the White Rabbit role with a frenetic, furry and fun frenzy.

Irvington Conservatory Theatre veteran Elizabeth Nye, who starred last spring as Ariel in "Footloose," shines again as Alice, the young girl looking for clarity in a confusing world. It's a demanding role that keeps Nye onstage and in the spotlight most of the show; she brings just the right mix of confidence and bewilderment to the feature character as she encounters the strange inhabitants of Carroll's fantasy world.

Washington's Adi Kolev is the ultimate picture of cool as the Cheshire Cat whose ever-present grin and philosophical musings are a source of comfort and consternation to Alice.

One of the highlights of the show is the classic Mad Tea Party - a manic exchange of riddles and stories that create a side-splitting scene. Watching Zach Dawson (Mad Hatter) and Mario Rappa's (March Hare) verbal sparring is like seeing a Marx Brothers routine. Amid the mayhem is a subtle but scene-stealing performance by a very sleepy Dormouse (Casey Coleman).

Equally delightful are fraternal twins Tweedledee (Colleen Clayton) and Tweedledum (Andrew Kimberlin), who keep everyone laughing with their hilarious antics.

Rebecca Euchler plays the rather ditzy Duchess with a grand, sweeping style befitting her position of royalty. And Bridget Moore delivers several memorable lines in the show as the all-knowing Caterpillar.

Of course, it wouldn't be Alice in Wonderland without the commanding presence of the Queen of Hearts (Victoria Whitaker), whose booming "Off with their heads!" pronouncements punctuate the croquet matches and trials alike.

The 31-student ensemble troupe weaves a rich blend of talent from the two high schools, and an additional 24 students make up the schools' technical crews. Fred Alim's creative, clever set and Elizabeth Whitaker's colorful costumes provide just the right blend of simplicity and audacity.


Alice in Wonderland
Friday and Saturday
November 14 and 15
7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 16
2 p.m.
Thursday - Saturday, November 20-22
7:30 p.m.
Irvington High School
Valhalla Theatre
41800 Blacow Road, Fremont

Wednesday and Thursday
December 3 and 4
Thursday and Friday
December 11 and 12
7:30 p.m.
Washington High School
38442 Fremont Blvd., Fremont

Ticket prices have been reduced to $10 for general admission and $8 for ASB students, children under 12 and senior citizens. You can buy tickets on the IHS website www.irvington.org (note that there are separate links for performances at IHS and WHS). For ticket information, phone (510) 656-5711, ext. 46423.

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